(After Jacob’s family settles at Shechem, Dinah begins to distance herself from her father. Here she muses on the fate of her ancestor Lot’s wife, and questions the fate of those condemned to silence. She alludes to Lot impregnating two of his daughters after he flees from Sodom.)
And Lot went out…and he said, “…Look, I have two daughters who have known no man. Let me bring them out to you and do to them whatever you want. Only to these men do nothing for have they not come under the shadow of my roof-beam?”
— Genesis, 19
Oh yes, I know you may condemn me now for my disobedience and my disdain for Father, and my shameful arrogance. And I know that you will surely blame me more as I go on—as I have blamed myself. But still I ask don’t turn away.
I ask this, now, not just for me but for all those who came before, and all those yet to come whose stories also will be buried under dust.
Is justice done by muting us until we’re nothing more than stone, dead cairns to mark the wayward path? To warn: “Do not provoke El’s awful wrath! Or He will smite you down!”
Yes, think of Eve, the way my father tells her story. To show how weak we women are and have been from the very start.
And then my distant aunt whose name I’ll never know—for Father never told us. To make of her as well appendage, only, of a husband. Nameless rib.
Whose first great shame was this: to bear her husband girls, not boys.
And then who came to Canaan, as we would, bound to the cult of Abraham. And who, when her husband made his fateful choice to live inside the gates of Sodom, faithfully followed him in.
Yes, this nameless woman is one I think of often. Who dutifully gave her elder daughters away to Sodom’s sons when Lot ordered it. And then grew fond of those they lived among, and of their children who also were her own.
And who, when two strangers wandered into the city gates, and her husband brought them home, served them food and drink.
And hid her youngest daughters when robbers pounded at the door demanding Lot send out the travelers.
And listened as Lot offered her precious daughters instead, shouting, “Do with my girls as you will! But do not harm my honored guests!”
And implored—and do you blame her?—“Why sacrifice our flesh for strangers?” And accused, “You do this just to prove yourself before your God!” For hadn’t Lot warned her that their guests were sent by Him, and so—she knew—could well defend themselves?
So, yes, now I ask what Father never does.
How wrong was this? That a mother try to save her daughters?
Was what she did more wrong than when a mother gives a child up—to appease a husband or a father, or king or uncle or fearsome God? Or a father beds his daughters?
Yes, you may be our judges. To condemn Lot’s wife as Father does—or not.
And if you do condemn, then yes, let Father’s story be your own. Let Lot’s wife be the cairn to guide you—the one El made of her. And let her life be left behind encased in salt, locked in that one cruel moment when she turns—so she must forever watch her daughters burning up.
But I cannot. No, I can’t condemn her.
For now you’ll see how there in Canaan, I too began to fall into those same sins Lot’s wife fell into, as Eve once did before her. The ones which Father always warned us women against: the urge to turn away from His true path. To let ourselves be swayed by strangers. And to put our flesh and the flesh of those we love above the Word of Him.
And so when Father tells the story of Lot’s wife—forcing her in death to serve the God Who bound her in that cairn of salty stone—I resist. And wish she’ll somehow find a way, against His awful wrath, to break the stone that traps her, and turn around, and run, and save her daughters from the flames.
And so, though no, I know my story’s far from hers—that brave nameless wife, may I ask for me as well at least this much? You won’t condemn too soon and turn away before you’ve heard what I still have to tell.